With 81% of employees preferring hybrid work schedules, the rise of "Zoom fatigue", and many other factors impeding employee productivity, future-thinking companies have realized the need for more refined workplace solutions.
In their search for better workflow management, security, and flexibility, they ended up swaying towards custom technology.
However, their goals went beyond replacing one premade solution with a custom-tailored one. They wanted the best the world of digital transformation could offer.
In our previous articles dedicated to human and technological factors, we mentioned a digital workplace (DW) as the next level of custom technology and the key to building a successful hybrid work model. While some businesses are already using it to meet customer and employee expectations, this system is a novelty to the business world.
To shed some light on this topic, we’ll elaborate on the purpose and benefits of a digital workplace as well as its adoption strategy.
At first glance, a digital workplace means exactly what it sounds like — a virtualized office space that covers every workflow process and encompasses all company departments.
However, a company can use up to 1000 systems with diverse functions. Putting them all under the same umbrella would end up with a feature-heavy, hard-to-navigate digital platform that costs a fortune to develop, takes an eternity to adapt, and is mind-breaking to support.
Luckily, an actual digital workplace doesn’t require doing the impossible. Its purpose is to detect the part of your workflow that can be improved through digital transformation and outfit it.
Not all valuable tools and technologies on the market can be scaled according to the company’s growth. As a result, it may take a year for a company to make progress that could have been achieved in months.
Meanwhile, a digital workplace is created from scratch, with scalability in mind.
A productive hybrid work model requires constant access to data and seamless communication.
Due to this, digital workplaces are equipped with cloud solutions, so employers could exchange data during business trips or from offices across the globe.
A DW works best when focused on specific department needs and pain points (Sales, Accounting, HR). To inject more flexibility, it can be integrated with other departments’ systems to accelerate task completion and speed-to-insight.
This way, employees can complete around 80% of their department-related tasks within one flexible system.
Due to their high potential for personalization, digital workplace solutions come in a large variety. This is why adopting a digital workplace isn't about finding the right template — it's about finding the right approach.
Overall, the process of developing a digital workplace that would fit the company's business needs and culture can be divided into four steps.
Albeit labeled “zero”, this is the most vital step that encompasses the entire digital workplace development. This is where stakeholders identify their priorities, goals and alternatives, ultimately deciding whether they need a DW, how they will adapt it, and who they should adapt it for.
What are the key challenges affecting your company’s performance? Is your current technological setup enough for solving your current issues? What part of your workflow is most affected?
What department would benefit the most from a digital workplace? Does your target department have the tools and skills necessary for adapting to digital transformation?
Do you need a digital workplace to improve employee engagement or for faster and better customer service? Do you want more emphasis on online? Do you want to cut off office expenses and go fully remote?
Is a digital workplace necessary for solving industry issues? Are there any ready-made solutions that can close current needs? Would they deliver a satisfactory cost/ROI ratio?
With so many aspects to consider, many companies engage external service providers to facilitate their decision-making, learn professional POV, and set realistic goals and expectations. In addition, Step 0 requires involvement of senior analysts and UX developers to ensure seamless, intuitive user experiences and human-centric designs.
Once the decision to develop a digital workplace system is made, it’s time for stakeholders to dive deeper, digging for more data and figuring out how the digital workplace for their chosen department should look like.
Decision-makers explore their company in greater detail to establish how it can benefit from a digital workplace.
What goals should a DW cover? What kind of results does the company expect from a digital workplace? What are the current business objectives? What needs to be adjusted to reach these objectives?
How does employee productivity look? Is it at an acceptable level? Which setbacks keep it from growing? What industrial challenges are affecting the company? Are employees satisfied with their current solutions? What do they lack for improving their performance and KPIs?
How do competitors deal with industry-related challenges? How is the company doing compared to competitors? What tools do competitors use? What solutions are offered to companies for solving industry-related issues?
Should the DW project be based on existing on-premise solutions or something completely new?
In general, we recommend companies take their time with analysis. Compared to the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, when businesses were scrambling to reduce churn rates and had to think on their feet, the current landscape makes in-depth research not only possible but also mandatory.
This research should be carried out together with the discovery team that would offer their professional advice on the DW concept, assist with outlining must-have features for future digital workplace and increase its feasibility. The team will also provide an estimate of expenses and development timelines, and forecast potential results that can be gained with the chosen digital workplace model.
In this step, design analysts gather information from potential end users and the development team to gain a clear view of how the DW should be designed, what controls it must feature and how to keep it user-friendly.
The final result of Step 1 should be the first detailed blueprint of the future digital workplace, complete with an interface layout, the number of features it must include, the number of users it should support, and the tasks it must be able to complete.
Once decision-makers have all the necessary research data, they start identifying their priorities. That’s where the concept of a digital workshop takes shape, so there is no such thing as too much brainstorming or too many reviews.
To visualize their progress and know their milestones, stakeholders and the discovery team create a product roadmap, including all the elements they want to see in their DW, resources, budget brackets, and experts involved. At that point, they establish which elements should be included in the MVP and which can be left out to save time and costs. To prioritize features that would make it to the first release, the development team can use a wide set of methodologies – Story Mapping, Kano, Feature Buckets, MoSCow, etc.
The discovery team decides what experts should be involved in the development process (and at what stage), structuring the approach and calculating resources needed for completing each design phase.
Designers and UX developers flesh out the digital workplace interface and plan its architecture. At this point, they focus on features and design decisions that allow injecting maximum usability. After it’s done, they work on providing a UX model for Step 3.
Digital workplace allows revolutionizing data processing features, information-gathering tools, and analytical assets, granted that they have been tested in advance. Due to this, development teams dedicate their pre-development activities to PoC/PoV, testing out and validating features stakeholders want to see in their DW. This measure is crucial for establishing which options can be realized and which ones aren’t viable.
Within this stage, all participant teams proceed with building a digital workplace MVP.
On average, the development process takes around 6-9 months and is followed by onboarding of the final product. In general, the sooner the MVP is developed, the better as stakeholders can test the DW’s features and provide necessary feedback that would be used to polish the product further.
User acceptance testing is an essential part of Step 3 as it results in a detailed list of suggestions from end-users that would be later added to the backlog and used for optimizing the digital workplace.
Afterwards, the improved product is safely delivered to the intended department, while stakeholders work on gathering performance and analytical data to proceed to the final step.
After the testing is done and the department starts working with a new digital workplace, stakeholders dedicate around 3 to 5 months to monitoring, so they could evaluate how the innovation affected employee productivity and company performance.
While the flexible nature of digital workplaces results in each organization having a different set of KPIs, some definite indicators let employers assess their progress.
HR, Accounting, Training, Technical support
Task delivery time: How much time does it take for employees to complete their tasks? How does it look compared to their past performance?
Cost optimization: How has the expenditure ratio changed after adopting a digital workplace? Are there any positive shifts in resource management?
Sales, Customer Support, Lead Generation
Revenue: Did the close rate grow after adopting a digital workplace? Have customer satisfaction rates changed? Is the revenue gained after adopting a DW compensating for the development expenses?
Employee engagement, satisfaction rate, cross-sell and upsell rates are also crucial KPIs for making sense of the DW benefits. For example, a newly installed digital workplace automates around 80% of tasks employees used to do manually. In that case, employees can now simultaneously complete more complex, human-managed tasks.
Therefore, business leaders can manage their workforce more productively, dedicating more time to increasing employee qualifications or exploring growth opportunities.
However, the key navigation points should be the priorities mapped during Step 2. If there’s a clear match between predicted results and the results gained, and the digital workplace journey is following the roadmap, investors can count on predictable, transparent, and productive performance.
Sooner or later, all companies will adopt a digital workplace that meets their needs. However, this process takes research, analysis, and a clear assessment of objectives, opportunities, and resources.
A digital workplace can drive a powerful change to a company — but only if it’s implemented with the right strategy, at the right time.
Some companies stop at Step 0 because they realize their existing toolset is more than enough for their current goals. Some companies make it all the way to Step 4, finding their perfect fit at the right moment.
How is your journey going? If you’re curious about adopting a digital workplace and ready to make your first steps, let's chat and see what departments at your company can benefit from a DW boost.